ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — DeMarcus Ware won't play in his first visit to Dallas almost six months after the Cowboys released their franchise sack leader and he signed with Denver.
Henry Melton, one of several defensive linemen trying to fill Ware's void, should make his Dallas debut in the preseason finale against the Broncos on Thursday night.
The 32-year-old Ware says it will be different "on the other side of the bar."
That's a good way to describe what amounts to a social visit with most starters for both teams, including Peyton Manning and Tony Romo, sitting out while fringe players battle for roster spots two days before final cuts.
"I'll be looking forward to seeing some of my old teammates and just being in that stadium and still feeling like it's home," said Ware, who spent his first nine seasons with the Cowboys. "We are always going to have that relationship. It's not just a business thing. It's a friendship also."
Like with Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who interrupted Ware's conference call with reporters for the only chance at trash talk between stars who combined for 16 Pro Bowl appearances with the Cowboys.
"You're lucky we're not playing tomorrow night," said a smiling Witten, who was a third-round draft pick in 2003, two years before Ware went in the first round. "I'd love to see you in coverage."
Anthony Spencer, who's still trying to come back from microfracture knee surgery for Dallas, misses his old pass-rushing partner.
"Just his personality and the type of person he is and just talking football with him," said Spencer, who was just a few lockers down from Ware at the Cowboys' training facility.
Melton is a defensive tackle, not an edge rusher such as Ware. But he was the most important offseason addition after the Cowboys decided to let Ware go and save money under the salary cap.
Under normal circumstances, Melton would be sitting with the rest of the starters, but he missed the first three preseason games with a groin injury.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said Melton wanted to get some snaps in the closest thing to real action before the Sept. 7 opener against San Francisco.
Melton hasn't played since tearing a knee ligament in Week 3 against Pittsburgh last season.
"The knee's fine," Jones said. "The groin's fully healed now. He's ready to go and I think he just wants to have the peace of mind he's going to feel good when he starts against the 49ers."
Cornerback Morris Claiborne, who hasn't played all preseason, is likely to sit out again with a shoulder injury as the Cowboys prepare to play without cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who will miss the first four games on a drug suspension.
Scandrick is another defensive starter who will play because the Cowboys want to get him as much playing time as possible before the suspension.
Dallas claimed cornerback Jemea Thomas, a sixth-round pick this year, off waivers from New England. And the Cowboys will get another look at Tyler Patmon a week after the undrafted rookie had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and a forced fumble at Miami.
"There's some jobs up for grabs," Jones said. "There's a handful of guys here who are battling and let's see how they answer the bell on Thursday and here we go."
NOTES: WR Tim Benford was waived to make room for Thomas. ... Former Dallas RB Phillip Tanner was set to sign with the Cowboys to give them more depth in the preseason finale.
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